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The Morning Vertical, September 2, 2016

  • Brian Whitmore


Vladimir Putin appears to be scrapping the governing model he has relied on for the past 16 years. He's culling his inner circle, purging the elite, and trying to set some limits on the widespread graft that pervades the Russian system.

In my latest Power Vertical blog post (featured below), I argue that, in doing so, Putin is essentially conducting a battle with himself. And on this week's Power Vertical Podcast, which will be online later today, my guests and I will look at what the "new Putinism" is likely to look like.

Joining me will be Moscow-based political analyst Nikolai Petrov of the Center for Political and Geographic Studies, who has written extensively on the topic, and Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies.

So be sure to tune in!


In an interview with Bloomberg, Vladimir Putin called the hack of the Democratic National Committee's e-mail servers a "public service" but says Russia didn't do it.

The U.S. Treasury has expanded its list of Russian companies subject to sectoral sanctions.

Russian officials, meanwhile, have mostly shrugged off the impact of a new round of sanctions.

Iranian news agencies are reporting that Iran and Russia have agreed to start building two nuclear power plants in Iran's southern city of Bushehr this month.

A group of women who blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Beslan school massacre have been sentenced to either community service or fined.

Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak said Moscow sees no need for talks with other major oil exporters on freezing output as long as prices stay around $50 a barrel.

Russia's disabled athletes won't be allowed to compete as neutrals at the Rio Paralympics after their country was banned over doping allegations.

Russian intelligence services are conducting "an information war" in the Czech Republic, warns the Central European country's counterintelligence agency, the BIS.

Violence has abated in Ukraine's east as the warring sides made a fresh attempt at a cease-fire in a separatist conflict that has killed more than 9,500 people since April 2014.


In the latest Power Vertical blog post, Putin Vs. Putin, I argue that the most consequential battle going on in Russia today is between Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Putin.


History As Scripture

Mark Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague and a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, has a piece in OpenDemocracy arguing that "education in Putin's Russia isn't about history, but scripture."

"Russia’s new history is really about today. It is about everything from denigrating the status of Kyiv to shutting down historical debate," Galeotti writes.

The Troops On The Border

And the ever-prolific Galeotti also has a piece in Vox explaining why we shouldn't panic about Russia's troop buildup on Ukraine's border.

"Russia is sending tens of thousands of troops to military installations near its border with Ukraine and holding snap military drills, sparking fears that a Russian invasion is imminent," Galeotti writes.

"These fears are overblown, however, for one major reason that everyone seems to have overlooked: The Ukrainian military of today is very different from the ramshackle, demoralized force of 2014."

Georgians And Ossetians

Maxim Edwards, an editor at OpenDemocracy specializing in nationalism and minorities, has a piece looking at historic relations between Georgians and Ossetians and why they broke down in the 1990s.

"Ossetians spoke Georgian, worshiped alongside Georgians and married Georgians. That they took up arms in the 1990s does not reflect the 'narcissism of small differences,' but a failure to compromise after these small differences had been institutionalized by the Soviet state. Weak states could not prevent the escalation to war," Edwards writes.

Eastern Europe's Political Prisoners

The new issue of New Eastern Europe looks at the plight of the region's political prisoners, including Andrey Sannikau of Belarus and Rasul Jafarov of Azerbaijan.

NATO And The Black Sea Area

Denitsa Raynova, a research associate with the European Leadership Network, has a piece on NATO's approach to Ukraine, Georgia, and the Black Sea area in the aftermath of the Warsaw summit.

"Despite the rhetoric of the Warsaw Summit, NATO is yet to fully develop its approach to the partner countries in the Black Sea region and devise a viable strategy for its long-term relations with Georgia and Ukraine," Raynova writes.

"Unless a more concerted effort is made to reshape the Alliance’s long-term vision for the two partnerships and project power in the region, the Black sea area risks becoming a permanent vulnerability and a potential source of instability."

Moscow On The Vltava

The new report by the Czech Republic's Security Information Service (BIS), the country's main intelligence agency, contains several morsels about Russia's increased activity in the past year, including a stepped-up disinformation campaign.

The Lives Of Ministers has a piece, with a helpful infographic, taking a look at the average amount of years Russian officials remain in various top posts.

The French Far Right In The Donbas War

Euromaidan Press has translated into English a piece in the French publication Street Press looking at the participation of far-right French groups in the war in the Donbas.

The Czech Far Right And The Donbas Separatists

RFE/RL's Anthony Wesolowsky has a nice piece on the unrecognized Donetsk People's Republic opening a representative office in the city of Ostrava in the Czech Republic. The effort is being spearheaded by Czech citizen Nela Liskova, a member of the xenophobic National Militia movement.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or


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